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Mar 2 2006
Local Search Performance and Google Click-to-Call
I moderated two panels on local at SES this morning. Both were very interesting and took slightly different perspectives on Local Search. Both had tactical aspects and we were lucky to have an advertiser in the room that was part of the Google click-to-call beta test (more on that in a moment).

Patricia Hursh, president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, was one of the panelists on the first panel and she presented an interesting case study on a national client (an ISP) that wanted to target regionally on Google. Her agency ran three campaigns. One was purely national; the second was "national" but used place name keywords and other geographic modifiers; the third campaign used no geographic keywords but relied on Google's IP targeting AdWords product.

The true national campaign performed the worst of the three. The "local keywords" national campaign performed better in terms of clicks (CTRs), but was more expensive than the national campaign. The "IP-targeting" campaign had the highest CTR and turned out to be the least expensive as well on a per-click basis.

She argued, however, that these three campaigns were not mutually exclusive because they each caught prospects/consumers that the others did not and because Google figures out which ad to serve depending on the query. There was also the branding value of the national campaign versus the more "direct response" quality of the local campaign. So in this case national and local ads could serve different potential objectives.

We talk about the higher CTRs and the more qualified nature of consumers who click on local/geotargeted ads. Sometimes I feel like I'm in an echo chamber so it's gratifying to see real-world examples from those "in the trenches" that validate these hypotheses.

Now to the Google click-to-call beta advertiser, who emerged during the second panel and is in the hotel industry. We didn't get into detail on the program but he characterized the performance as "great." Panelist Jake Baillie, president of TrueLocal, wondered aloud whether the performance of the product was affected in any way by the absence of competition. The marketer said he didn't think that accounted for it. But he did say that he thought the presence of the call option motivated consumers to go directly to the hotel rather than continuing to click around. It provided an immediacy for the consumer that made it correspondingly quite effective for the advertiser.

I made the comment that the presence of the call option had the potential effect of moving the consumer along the buying cycle more quickly. I'm going to follow up with him to learn more.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
Broadband Growth in 2005
Broadband numbers were up in 2005, according to Leichtman Research Group, and reported by Om Malik. We'll get into this further in an upcoming advisory on triple- and quad-play offerings of cable and telecom providers. We'll also hold a related session at the upcoming Drilling Down on Local conference. Hope to see you there:

The Broadband Juggernaut: Slowing Down or Speeding Up?
High-speed Internet access is the backbone of the new consumer paradigm. It took a decade for broadband to reach �critical mass� in the U.S. Now we are witnessing the disruptive effects for traditional media and potentially for some newer technologies as well. While some predict broadband is slowing, others believe competition and new initiatives (e.g., municipal Wi-Fi) and technologies could drive high-speed access to nearly 100 percent penetration in the next several years. Which version of the future is correct? This panel will debate the potential scenarios and look outside the U.S. to higher-speed markets to see what the future might hold.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
LocalConnect Launches
Search Engine Journal reports on a new product from Local.com that is basically a branded search engine that publishers can plant on their sites. This eliminates the need for publishers to invest in the development of search functionality on their sites, and it integrates Local.com advertisers with publishers' ad listings. It could be an attractive tool for any local site or blog publisher that wants to integrate a paid local search advertising. We'll write more on this later.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  13:15 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
InfoSpace Interview
PaidContent has an interesting interview with Jim Voelker, CEO of InfoSpace. It covers among other things the company's merging of its search and directory and mobile divisions. Read it here and listen to it here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:47 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 2 2006
Viacom Gets Social
An addendum to the previous post: If the social networking space is indeed saturated, it just got a little more so. Viacom has announced it could launch what seems like a "me too" social network this year that will target young people.

In doing this, the company can leverage other assets in its media empire such as MTV and have a natural advantage in appealing to younger generations (at least more so than one might think Fox could). But it could be a day late.

Read about it here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:38 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 2 2006
Social Networking Bubble?
Despite the perceived success of MySpace, there are skeptics of social networking business models. BusinessWeek brings up the possibility that we�re in a social networking bubble that is reaching saturation while ad models remain somewhat shaky.

From the article:

For many sites, the challenge begins with persuading advertisers that their investment will be rewarded with sufficient views by users. What's more, with so many social networks vying for attention, retaining users can be problematic. Amid these difficulties, some observers anticipate a brighter future for smaller niche networks that bring together users with common interests.

Chris Charron, a vice-president at Forrester Research, says some advertisers aren't all that interested in social networks. User-generated content, which dominates these sites, is a tough sell to companies that can't control the material with which their brand is associated. That's all the more the case when content is racy, as personal profiles often are.


Though the page view and retention issues may not apply to MySpace (yet), the site�s average user age is 18 and it largely appeals to a teenage demographic that can be somewhat fickle and swayed easily by effective viral marketing:

... members have little loyalty to any given social network and will switch if something better comes along, or when pals jump ship, the article says.

This statement has some truth but forgets the fact that social networks do have some degree of stickiness, as users have a sunken time investment in having set up their personal, pages, preferences and networks among which their username and other attributes are known by their friends. In other words, the name of the game for competitors of MySpace � such as the newly launched Tagged � is not to attract each user away from MySpace, but to attract a critical mass of networked users that will create a domino effect of others that will follow. It is after all a social network.

The article brings up the potential of more niche-oriented networks such as TripConnect, which brings social networking and user-generated content to the travel vertical. The business case here is that it is easier to attract advertising and easier to contextualize it around user conversations:

Raj Kapoor, a managing director at Mayfield Fund, which led a $7 million investment in teen-focused Tagged, concedes that no one has developed an ideal way to target ads around user-generated content. "At the end of the day advertisers want to find a way to do it," since teens spend so much time browsing their peers' profiles, blogs, and other dispatches.

But with something more niche-oriented like TripConnect:

�The site uses social networking in such a way that users are "directly influencing each other's purchase decisions," he notes. That's "not something you find when people are chatting about bands."

So are vertically oriented social networks better off than broader ones? The same question faces search, online shopping and even classifieds. The question is still being hammered out in those more mature industries where lots of factors weigh in, so it will be a while before a clear answer is discerned about social networking models. But if we are in a social networking bubble, an impending shakeout will get us closer to an answer.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  07:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [1]



Mar 2 2006
Video Game Advertising Takes a Step Forward III
There continues to be business activity in the embryonic field of video game advertising. As we�ve reported in the past here and here, this could be an interesting area to watch because of the repeated exposure that ads could receive, the attractive demographic of gamers, and the IP targeting capabilities of online games that could eventually follow the success of local online advertising.

San Jose Mercury News Tech reporter Dean Takahashi reported yesterday on the latest development in the field. Two former executives of mega gaming company Sega, will join the executive ranks of new video game ad company Adscape (think of it as a tech-savvy ad agency for video games).

It will split ad revenues with game publishers and it �promises to weave advertising into both video game landscapes and their embedded communications.�

From the article:

For instance, Gilbert said, in a game in which a player goes to a cell phone store, the store could have real-world models of cell phones on display. If the player likes the phone, he could click a button and order one on the spot or step out of the game and go to a Web site for more information.

� In another example, he said players could communicate with friends from inside the game using the game's own messaging system, or conduct online financial transactions while they're still in a game.


The advantage of video game ads is that they can be well integrated and even involve products used within game play, as opposed to just being displayed somewhere. For example, Splinter Cell, a popular action game, has Sobe vending machines from which game characters can power up.

And with online gaming and Internet-connected consoles growing in use, it could create a fertile situation for delivering targeted ads and even bring in e-commerce capability for an immediate conversion. A great deal is yet to be developed (technologies and business models) in this space, but we�ll keep an eye on it.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  07:05 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]










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